Alaa Abdel-Fattah is one Egypt’s most prominent, award-winning bloggers. He has been behind bars since Oct. 30 after refusing to answer questions by military prosecutors over his alleged role in sectarian clashes last month that killed 27 people.
Mr. Abdel-Fattah may not be very well-known outside the Arab World, but his detention has sparked outrage in Egypt against the country’s military rulers in the run up to elections.
Since President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown last January, a staggering 12,000 Egyptians have faced military trial. The number is apparently higher than those that occurred under Mr. Mubarak’s 30-year rule. Mr. Abdel-Fattah ( @alaa on Twitter) has not been formally charged with anything. The #freealaa campaign has dominated the Egyptian Twitterverse for weeks. On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch issued a statement demanding his release.
Mr. Abdel-Fatah hails from a family of activists. His father, Ahmed Seif El-Islam is a prominent human rights lawyer who was imprisoned and tortured under Mr. Mubarak’s regime. His mother, Laila Soueif, also an activist, has embarked on a hunger strike in an effort to draw attention to her son’s ordeal. Adding to the drama, Mr. Abdel-Fatah’s wife, Manal is nine months pregnant with their first child.
From prison, he has managed to blog. On Tuesday, Al-Arabiya published an English translation, offering a riveting window into his world. Mr. Abdel-Fatah noted he would be missing his birthday, Eid festivities and most likely the birth of his son: “So Eid passed, and my birthday will pass. I’m used to spending them away from the family. But the birth of Khaled, my first son, how can I miss it?”
“How can I bear not being next to Manal at this time? How can I bear waiting for news, waiting to hear if they’re okay or not? How can I bear not seeing his face, not seeing his mother’s face when she sees his?’
A previous blog post captured the brutal conditions under which his is being kept: “I am writing this note with a deep sense of shame... I have just been moved from Ist’naf (appeal) prison, at my request and insistence, because I simply couldn’t withstand the difficult conditions there: because of the darkness, the filth, the roaming cockroaches, crawling over my body night and day: because there was no courtyard, no sunshine, and again, the darkness.”
On Sunday Egypt’s military ordered he be held for another fifteen days.